When choosing the best vintage fabric, it is important to examine the quality of the fabric and to keep the project you are working on in mind. Ideally, you will want to choose vintage fabric that has not been used, but you may have to pay a premium for genuine, mint-condition fabric. If you cannot get unused vintage fabric, examine it thoroughly before purchasing to make sure it is in usable shape.
One benefit to using vintage fabric is that it has already withstood the test of time. A downside is that it may not have stood the test of time well. Vintage fabric that was improperly cared for, left in the sun, or handled roughly may show lots of signs of wear. Unroll the fabric from the bolt and inspect it for any faded, worn, or snagged areas. Even if the fabric is in a pattern that you love, it is not worth spending money on if it is in poor condition or looks as though it cannot stand up to being used in any way.
In some cases, you may be able to remove damaged or faded areas of the fabric and use the remaining portion. It may be worth your while to try and haggle down the price of a vintage fabric that has a small sun-damaged area, because that is a portion of the fabric that you will not be able to use. Unless you leave the fabric in the sunny window, the faded area will not spread.
Be on the lookout for moldy or mildewed fabrics. Unlike sun damage, mold can grow and spread throughout the fabric, so it is in your best interest to leave moldy vintage fabric on the shelf. If you are uncertain about any damage you see on the fabric, ask the sales clerk or store owner for assistance.
Consider the weight of the vintage fabric and whether it has body or drape when selecting it. Certain projects call for certain weights of fabric, and fabrics with drape often perform better for some garments than fabric with body. Heavy-weight fabrics work well for upholstery or any project that will see a lot of use.
The weight of the fabric does not necessarily determine whether it drapes or has body. Test the fabric for drape or body by unrolling a small portion of it from the bolt and holding it against your leg. If the fabric drapes, it will fall gently against your leg; if it has body, it will stick out slightly and hold its shape.